Truth and love: How should Christians comment on social issues online?
by Levan Wee // August 12, 2022, 12:58 pm
We are tasked to preserve and proclaim God's truth in all areas of life through our words and actions, says Levan Wee. But while what we say is important, we must always be careful to consider how and why we speak. All illustrations by Anne Ng.
Should Christians publicly air their views on politics and other contentious social issues?
Among those who feel we should not, the common argument goes: Israel thought the Messiah would come in the form of a political conqueror. But Jesus turned the tables by coming as a completely different sort of King – so, by extension, we should also not touch politics in any way.
But believers can be an active part of such conversations. Jesus may not have ended up a politician, but He certainly had views about how we are to engage with society.
He called us to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). This means that we are tasked to preserve and proclaim God’s truth in all areas of life through our words and actions, as best we can.
Just as Daniel and friends did while in the land of exile; just as Nehemiah did as cupbearer to the King; or just as Paul did in seeking audiences before local kings and even Caesar.
However, while what we say is important, we must always be careful to consider how and why we speak. The key is making sure, with a clear conscience before God and man, that we speak out of both truth and love (Ephesians 4:15).
Here are three questions we can ask ourselves each time we feel the urge to share our thoughts on social media.
ABOUT TO HIT “POST”? BEFORE YOU DO, ASK YOURSELF …
1. “Am I speaking out with God’s love?”
How does God define love? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”.
Paul further invites us to always “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
So, what does walking in love look like when it comes to speaking out about social issues online, such as our thoughts on the repeal of Section 377A and other touchy topics?
These types of debates can get heated. After all, we live in a complex world with many different voices. Not just between believers and non-believers, but even among Christians.
This diversity of views may sometimes cause tension, and in the heat of discussions, some Christians may start to focus on “winning” discussions with others in a way that may come across as impatient, mean, boastful, arrogant, insensitive, self-righteous, angry or petty.
Granted, there are times when we must speak “boldly for the Lord” (Acts 14:3), making a firm stand on issues that matter.
However, being bold in our faith is no excuse to neglect showing love to others.
What separates an unloving zealot from a true follower of Christ is their sincere desire to walk in love for others, as defined and commanded by God … regardless of whether others agree with us or not.
“If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13). The heart that lies behind what we say truly does matter.
Are you speaking in love? Questions to ask yourself:
- Do I focus more on winning online arguments – or obeying God’s command to walk in love?
- How can I show more love to people, even when they greatly disagree with me?
- How do I stay rooted in God’s Word while trying to understand others’ views?
2. “Have I prayed about how to respond?”
Jesus varied his approach to doing things.
There were times when Jesus spoke boldly and firmly (Matthew 23, speaking about the Pharisees) and other times when he was silent (Matthew 26:63). Sometimes he spoke in big public spaces, like during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), but there were also moments when he chose to hide from crowds (John 8:59).
But while he engaged in different ways, a consistent quality shaped his time on earth: He always desired to hear and obey his Father’s will (John 5:19; John 14:31).
Jesus prayed all the time. He prayed alone for long hours (Mark 1:35; Matthew 14:23); he prayed with and for others (Luke 9:28; John 17:20). He also prayed before and after he made important decisions (Luke 6:12-13; Luke 10:21; Matthew 26:39-44).
In short, Jesus never acted impulsively on his own. Instead, he always prayed to “do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:31), even when the Son of Man’s will may have differed (John 5:30; Luke 22:42).
If Jesus, part of the Godhead, looked to Father God before acting, so should we. So when talk about social issues online, do we take the time to first pray and ask God for wisdom and guidance? Or do we just react based on our own personal perception and preferences?
Peter reminds us that Jesus “left you an example, so that you may follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). All Christians are invited to be “imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
So, just like Jesus, we should always pray to seek the Father’s will. He knows the best way for us to speak up on social issues, customised to each believer’s unique situation. We can ask Him questions like “Should I speak up this time or remain silent?”, “How should I respond to this person?”, and so on.
God’s understanding will always be far greater than ours (Proverbs 3:5-6). What we think is the right thing to say or do in a given situation may not be what God tells us. Let us try to obey His spirit instead of what our flesh tempts us to do.
Have you prayed before responding? Questions to ask:
- Am I praying to seek His will as often as I should?
- Do I want to comment on this social issue just because I feel like it – or because God is asking me to?
- How does God want me to speak up? In what context and on what platform?
3. “Does my response point people to God?”
Moses warned Pharaoh … and pointed him to God (Exodus 5).
Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream … and pointed him to God (Daniel 2:45-46).
Paul preached at Ephesus. Some rejected and mocked him … but he pointed them to God all the same (Acts 19:8-10).
Peter spoke to people he never thought would receive the Gospel … and pointed them to God (Acts 10:27-48).
The same goal applies to us whenever we engage others.
As Christians, we must share God’s truth with others, but we must do so in a loving way that points them to God. It’s impossible to force people into believing what we say. However, we can shine God’s wisdom into the situation, and trust that will plant seeds that will help to lead others to Him.
Some people will listen to you, others won’t. If the latter happens, don’t worry. Just “shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14) and do not be discouraged. Keep pointing others to God if and when He prompts you.
Does your response point people to God? Questions to ask:
- Am I ultimately pointing people to God or to myself?
- As people hear from me, what impression will they form of my God?
- How can I season my words to glorify God no matter the context or audience? (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)
Love and truth
Times change. Society evolves. New issues will continue to emerge. Today, we may be discussing the repeal of Section 377A; tomorrow, it will be another policy, another issue.
The topic will change. Our posture should not: We must always strive to speak the truth in love.
We as Christians should participate in these discussions, and we must do so in a way that honours and displays God’s love.
This means taking the time to pray first to discern how and why we speak up, always centred on bringing glory to His name, not our own.
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